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Pop-up The Puzzle Window PROTECT YOURSELF! FROM...
by Maria Reidelbach

These days, trouble lurks around every corner. If it's not burglars waiting for you to go on vacation, it's muggers lurking in alleyways, or identity thieves stalking you on the Internet. Even though crime rates have dropped for six years in a row, most of us still don't feel safe.

What To Do?

First, take this quiz to find out how much you really know about how to protect yourself. You can choose more than one answer if you like.

1)You've just completed the final requirements toward getting your black belt in karate. You're walking home from an evening class and a man steps out from a shadowy doorway, blocking your way. What do you do?
  1. Scream and run away as fast as you can.
  2. Stay and pound the guy into the pavement, just as you were practicing in class 15 minutes before.
  3. Pull out your handgun and blow him away.
  4. Laugh and tell him that he'll scare people behaving like that.
You fear that there are criminals out to get you everywhere. What's posing the greatest threat?
  1. I'm afraid that someday someone's going to try to kill or kidnap me.
  2. I'm afraid that someday my spouse is going to try to kill me or kidnap our kids.
  3. I'm afraid that someone's going to steal my identity and ruin me.
  4. I'm afraid that the sky is falling! I mean—there's crud in the air and in the water and polluting corporations are getting away with murder!
3)You've been reading in the local news that burglaries are increasing in your neighborhood and you're concerned for the safety of your family and your belongings. You
  1. Invest in a state-of-the-art home security system connected to the local police department.
  2. Move away to a gated community.
  3. Get a scanner radio so that you will know instantly every problem in the neighborhood.
  4. Organize a neighborhood barbecue.
The Projects
So you've finished the little quiz?
Did you Cheat?
Of course not, this is an anticrime quiz. So let's take a look at your answers.

1)Well, guess what. Most karate teachers will tell you that the best thing to do is:
  1. Get the hell out of there as fast as you can. Even if you're really tough, even if you're all warmed up. Even if you've been training to administer groin kicks since you were nine. Or, try to avoid the situation using survival strategies. Or learn a martial art and work for peace.

  2. If pent-up rage keeps ruining your meditation sessions, you might want to check out Panther Videos' Brazilian street-fighting videos and "fear no one."

  3. Are you the gizmos and hardware type? Maybe a gun is for you. But only if you know how to use one! Check out Women Against Gun Control for an arsenal of pro-gun info. But not before you check out gun safety.

  4. I threw this one in because I did this once. Coming out of a New York City subway I was jumped by a gang of Puerto Rican teenage boys. First I was startled, then, when I saw their adorable faces I laughed and said "You guys shouldn't be doing that—you'll scare someone!" At that very moment I realized that they actually were very serious. But guess what? They were surprised by my response and it shamed them. They actually apologized. I don't advocate trying this, but it worked for me.


2)We all know that just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

  1. Murder, eh? Kidnapping, eh? You can find out your chances (and how to reduce them) at: Rate Your Risk of Being Murdered. Or, if someone is stalking you, here is a Sanctuary.

  2. Sadly, you've got a much greater chance of being hurt by a spouse or lover than by a stranger. You can learn to Read the Warning Signs or, if you're already experiencing abuse, assess your danger in a very systematic way at the Spouse Abuse Matrix. And don't think that because you're a male you're safe from domestic violence, at least according to this this series of reports in A Man's Life.

  3. My next-door neighbor had his identity stolen three times! What to do? Find out how to (literally) protect your good name and fight back.

  4. The situation is worse than you would ever think. Not only are rogue corporations breaking laws and ruining our health. Pollution might also cause crime. Scientists are discovering that lead and manganese poisoning adversely affects the brain's impulse control and boosts aggression.

Domestic Violence
3)Your first response, when you fear that your home may be broken into, is to "circle up the wagons." But there are a variety of ways to do even this.

  1. A home security system sounds good if you don't mind being awakened at 3 AM when the cat trips it. Find out more. Or, just get some intimidating stickers that make it look like you have a fancy home security system!

  2. Can you afford a gated community? Gated communities might be safer in terms of burglaries, but there are other factors to consider, like whether or not you're claustrophobic. For pros and cons, check out What If. And there's a book discussing the growing number of gated communities, Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States, reviewed. There are even gated communities for poor people.

  3. A while ago my mother became more fearful about her safety in the small town in which she lived. I was surprised, and asked her what had changed. She said that she had gotten a radio scanner, and had become an avid listener to all the nefarious and emergency goings-on in the town. The moral of the story is: It can be dangerous to know too much. Here's a website devoted to the subject: And, you don't even need to buy a scanner to listen in. It's on the Web, at: APB Online. The scanner is in a pulldown menu, top right, where it says choose a city.

  4. Guess what—this is the best answer—or at least a very viable one. Studies show that neighborhood barbecues help build ties, whether the community is a poor or middle-class one. Check it out at Yeah, I know, you'd rather be slaughtered in your bed by drug-crazed gangs than trade cole slaw recipes with a bunch of slugs who don't share your taste in music. But, if you change your mind, you can learn about barbecuing at
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Police Abuse
The Kid have guns
I'm sorry ...
And you thought something called VAGUE would give you definite answers about protecting yourself? I'm so sorry; no such answers exist. But I can tell you this: If you're afraid of crime, you've got several viable options.

First, figure out whether there's actually something to be afraid of! There are lots of people out there who want you to be afraid just so they can sell you more stuff, from: survival gear to: Valium.

Next, you face the big decision: Is it your strategy to build higher, thicker walls around yourself, shutting others out? Or, are you going to put your energy into building alliances with people in your community to help discipline troublemakers (teenagers and politicians first), keep law enforcement responsive and give local kids some hope of a future?

We guarantee that you won't like all your allies any more than you'd want to work politically with all of your friends. But if you strike a positive attitude while doing community work, your odds of getting mugged, burgled or slaughtered in your bed will be a lot lower than your odds of making a few new friends—who with luck, in a crunch, will protect you.

The End
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